Since Midsomer Murders launched on ITV in 1997, viewers have been addicted to the picturesque scenery, compelling mysteries and the ever-ingenious murder methods deployed by the many killers of Midsomer County.
The show will be celebrating its anniversary on Sunday, May 29 when the tribute documentary Midsomer Murders: 25 Years Of Mayhem airs on ITV at 7pm, and immediately afterward, viewers can enjoy a brand new mystery called 'The Scarecrow Murders'.
The latest investigation for DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) involves the death of PR expert Naomi Ashcroft (Emily Bevan), whose body is propped up in a shop window and padded with straw just as Little Upton is holding its annual Scarecrow Festival.
Naomi's untimely end attracts the attention of local journalist Caitlin Dawson (Jessica Ellerby), who's keen to investigate — and also happens to be Winter's ex-girlfriend.
Fans of the show might have already noticed a particularly canny piece of casting here, as Nick and Jessica are married in real-life — so we caught up with Nick to chat about the latest case, Midsomer's big anniversary and what it was like to act opposite his wife...
Nick Hendrix on Midsomer Murders' latest mystery, 'The Scarecrow Murders'
"It's about a scarecrow festival, which is a very Midsomer-y concept! But there's also a background of a gambling narrative, and a vicar who wins the lottery, so there's quite an interesting moral question about people in religious positions of authority winning lots of money and what they choose to do with it."
Was it eerie being surrounded by scarecrows?
"They are a bit spooky, aren't they? It's been used before a lot in horror movies and darker things than Midsomer, but I think it's a nice feel for us — I think it works really well. I'm sort of surprised they haven't done something with scarecrows before, actually, but I know everything is checked against the archive. After so many episodes, you do kind of go, 'how do we keep coming up with things that we haven't done before?' — that is a challenge!"
We meet Winter's ex-girlfriend Caitlin in this episode. What can you tell us about their relationship?
"Winter's personal life is something that pops in and out of episodes, but there's not loads of real estate within the script for him to have lots of personal scenes. There have been episodes in the past where I've had the odd dalliance, but no huge romance or anything. But to have a character turn up that is very much from his past, and an ex-girlfriend, is a really fun little detail for the show. It was great — and what was useful was that they had a bad break-up and it's a sort of sour, negative relationship in that sense, which is slightly easier to play on set with a real-life partner!"
What was it like working with your wife Jessica?
"It was fun! It was nice to have her on set, and to have to be sort of anti-each other, playing awkwardness with each other rather than affection, which is obviously the opposite — we have affection for each other naturally! We weren't in all the scenes together. We were in a lot together, because her character was connected to mine, but I wanted her to be able to be on set and film without me there, so it was a job for her rather than like, 'oh, and there's Nick'. There were scenes where I was off, sitting at home, and she was on set with all the crew, essentially with my friends and colleagues, and I wasn't there!"
Midsomer Murders celebrates 25 years on the air this year. How does it feel to be a part of that?
"What an honour, without sounding too dramatic about it! There aren't loads of shows in the canon of British TV that run for this length of time. You pass the point of just being a show that's been on for a while in a 'yeah, whatever' kind of way, and when you're on for so long, you get into this new realm of 'wow, this is actually quite special' — you feel like you're part of the fabric of British entertainment on every level.
"I've been doing it much longer than I realise — I still think 'oh, I've just started', but I'm filming my fifth series at the moment. Although, because the show has run for so long, five series in you're still the new boy — in any other show, you'd be a seasoned veteran! People still talk about Neil being the new guy, and he's done it for a decade! But it's an honour, really, and it's a lot of fun, and it's a show that we're still proud of as well."
- Midsomer Murders: The Scarecrow Murders airs on ITV on Sunday, May 29 at 8pm
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Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com, who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.